June 18, 2023 | General
The warmer months have arrived, which means it’s time for an important reminder about some of the hazards the season can present for canine family members.
As much as we love seeing our dogs playing or snoozing in the sunshine, taking a few precautions can avert disaster and keep everyone safe and healthy all summer long.
Many people don’t realize just how quickly their pet can overheat. Dogs (and cats) can’t regulate their body temperature as efficiently as we can, because most of their sweat glands are confined to the pads of their feet. Panting is your dog’s primary means of cooling down.
Flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds can’t pant as effectively as dogs with longer noses, so they have even less ability to regulate their body temperature.
Pets can also become dehydrated very rapidly in warm weather, so it’s extremely important to ensure your dog has a constant source of fresh, clean drinking water. If he’ll be outside in the heat for any period, he should also have access to a completely shaded area and plenty of cool drinking water and be sure to bring him indoors when the temp climbs to 90°F (32°C) or above.
If you spend time in the yard on summer days or evenings, and your dog doesn’t like being stuck indoors, you can turn on the hose or sprinkler to cool him off. You can also fill a children’s small plastic wading pool with water and encourage him to sit or lie in it.
Exercise your dog either in the early morning or evening when the temperature is coolest. Try to stay in the shade during daylight hours, and no matter the time of day, don’t overdo outdoor exercise or play sessions. Even on an overcast day or in the evening, a long period of physical exertion in hot weather can cause heatstroke.
Don’t allow your dog to stand, walk or rest on hot outdoor surfaces like sidewalks or parking lots. His paws, belly, and hindquarters can sustain burns from hot concrete. And remember he’s close to the ground and the ground is much hotter than the air. Just walking on hot pavement can cause him to overheat.
Never under any circumstances leave your pet in a parked vehicle on a hot day. Your car or truck cab can become a furnace very quickly, even with the windows open, and can cause a fatal case of heatstroke in your canine BFF. Aside from the risk of serious illness or death, leaving pets unattended in vehicles in hot weather is illegal in many states.
It’s not always safe to assume that just because your dog wears a fur coat, she’s protected from skin cancer. Dogs who shouldn’t overdo it include those with:
You can protect your dog from the sun’s harmful rays with a nontoxic, dog safe sunscreen. I recommend a product designed to not only help protect your pet from potentially harmful rays, but also to nourish and moisturize the skin.
Look for a product that contains no dangerous chemical ingredients, parabens, artificial fragrances, nanoparticles, or mineral oil. It should also be non-comedogenic (doesn’t irritate or clog pores) and developed using no animal testing or cruelty.
I also recommend products that contain only zinc oxide for active UVA and UVB ray protection. Unlike some chemical sunscreens that may absorb ultraviolet light, zinc oxide helps reflect and scatter away both UVA and UVB rays from your pet’s body. Zinc oxide is found naturally in the earth’s crust and is a safe ingredient to help prevent excessive sun exposure.
When you put sunscreen on your dog, be sure to avoid the eyes but be sure to get the area around her face and ears covered, as well as her tummy if she likes to sunbathe belly-up. If she’ll be outside for an extended period, reapply the sunscreen about every two hours.
Even if your dog has a healthy, resilient digestive tract, it’s best to keep party and barbequed foods out of reach, along with potentially toxic people foods like chocolate, coffee, onions, grapes, raisins, and bread dough. Corn on the cob, also a popular food this time of year, can be very dangerous because the cob is indigestible and can get stuck in the digestive tract, requiring surgery.
Another watch-out is cooked bones, which are dangerous to dogs because they tend to splinter. Most veterinarians have performed surgery to remove shards, splinters and blockages from dogs who were given or scavenged cooked bones. Tragically, some cases prove fatal.
But with that said, your pet has a biological requirement for the nutrients found in bone marrow and the bones themselves, and fortunately, most dogs love to chew raw bones for the yummy taste, the mental stimulation, and because all that gnawing is great exercise for the muscles of the jaw. So when it comes to bones, play it safe and offer your dog only raw bones — either edible bones and/or recreational bones.
During gatherings at your home (or elsewhere, if you bring your dog along), it’s also important to keep all alcoholic drinks out of reach of your pet, and make sure your guests do the same. Alcohol is poison to dogs, and depending on how much is ingested, your pet can become very intoxicated, weak, depressed, and even comatose. Severe alcohol poisoning can result in death from respiratory failure.
Many commonly used fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are loaded with chemicals that can prove toxic to pets. The same goes for rodent bait. Don’t allow your dog or cat access to areas of your garden, lawn, house, or outbuildings where chemicals have been used. Take the same precautions when walking your dog.
Store all chemicals out of reach of your pet, and remember to keep citronella candles, oil products and insect coils out of your pet’s reach as well.
If you’ll be doing any planting to brighten up your home or yard, before you stock up on seeds or visit your local nursery, make sure you know which plants, flowers and greenery are toxic to your pet if ingested.
Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately if you suspect your dog or cat has swallowed a poisonous substance.